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Walt Disney's "Ballerina" movie


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#1 grace

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 06:26 PM

[thread title changed, A.T.]

last evening, i dropped in on a friend with foxtel, who promptly flicked around the channels to find something i might like...and he stopped on a dubbed and obviously very old (but color) movie, called 'Ballerina'.

i said, "this should be good for a laugh" - which proved immediately correct, as the young star in tiara and stage make-up RAN excitedly down the backstage metal stairs, in order to greet another (more established?) ballerina. just as i said "now she'll fall" - SURE ENUF! - chuckle, chuckle.

it got better... ;)

anyway, never having seen any of these dancers before, i kept up a running commentary, to my friend, about who or what they might be...obviously REAL dancers, not 'just' actors/actresses...but totally unfamiliar to me, as was the setting.

i decided that the setting for the last ten minutes of this film (which was all i saw) was a real theatre in denmark (fabulous curtain)?

...and that the older blond woman was MAYBE googie withers?

and that the lead dancers were REAL - and very glamorous indeed - so i thought maybe they were american, until the woman did some exceptionally neat batterie with lots of body, which made me wonder if she was danish...

it was a fun guessing game, as it's rare to come across people and settings in filmed ballet which are completely unknown - and yet clearly professional.

at the end, they didn't show the credits! i was mad.

in the program, all it told me that the very tall, long-legged, dark-hairded handsome young man, who i had not paid much attention to, (except for his neat double tour) was henning kronstam. and the very glamorous, young and pretty female 'star' was kirsten simone. and the 'other' blonde ballerina - also extremely glamorous in an american way? who was she? does she dance in the film? is there more dancing earlier on? any class scenes?

foxtel show it again, a few days after christmas, so i have made a note to video it, and watch the rest...

the choreo in coppelia (solos) was WIIEEEEEEEEERD! what's up, there? just choreographed for the film?

any interesting information gratefully received. oh yes, it was a Disney film, apparently. 1960 or 1966 - i've forgotten which, already. i would have guessed much older...

{edited to add the date}

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 06:37 PM

The heroine in Disney's Ballerina was Mette Honningen.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 06:57 PM

Apparently, Disney fell in love with the company when he was there filming Hans Christian Andersen and wanted to come back and do a ballet about it. And so he did.

Disney as it is, it catches the atmosphere of that theater.

The choreography is all by an English choreographer -- Norman Thompson? George Thompson? The dancing segments include:

Unnamed Spaniish-flavored ballet for Simone and Kronsam (won't win any choreographic medals)
Bits of Coppelia (criminally, NOT the Danish version, but some ordinary version. Kronstam does Franz, a role he never did on stage. Mette Honningen is Swanhilda and wins my personal gold medal for the standing broad jump in her hops in the second act. Niels Bjorn Larsen is Coppelius. (Not coincidentally, he was the company's director and I think he wanted his greatest role filmed.)
There's a bogus Swan Lake Act II for Kronstam and Simone -- and the corps is all Danish, and don't let anybody tell you it's not. :) There are bits of rehearsals of Coppelia and Swan Lake. There's a bit of the reel from La Sylphide -- Peter Martins is visible for about 2 seconds. Unfortunately, Kronstam's James was not filmed. I think that's it. Haven't watched it for awhile.

It was shot in Hollywood and Finland. Both Kronstam and Simone are 30; I think Honningen is 20.

Other actors: The teacher who's supposed to be Volkova isn't Volkova, but I don't know who she is. Jenny Agutter is the little girl. The balletmaster is Erik Mork who was the great stage actor of their generation -- but the acting is all very stiff and stagey, to me. Oh, and Lise LaCour (mother of Nilas Martins) is the girl in blue who calls to Metta and makes her fall, and dances the "bad" variation in the exam. It's funny that several of the critics I talked to who'd seen that film said how Simone and Kronstam "played themselves" and the dancers of that time found that very amusing, as they aren't anything like the characters in the film.

The plot is very hokey. Mette H. is a young dancer detemined to be a star. Her mother is determined she be a housewife (or, in 1965 terms, "have a meaningful life") She usually delivers this speech armed with freshly baked goods, or ironing. Mette's mentor is Kirsten, who cares so much for the good of the company that she practically begs the direction to give Mette a chance at her greatest role -- Swanhilda. Kronstam is the company star. I won't ruin it for you by telling you the ending, but it is beyond predictable.

Another thing that dates it -- and that I do like -- is that Mette is totally fixated on dancing. She watches Swan Lake and, instead of imagining herself in the man's arms (a la Turning Point) imagines she's pushed that damned ballerina out of the way and is dancing the role.

I'd like to say I hope you like it.....but I don't think I could say that with a straight face. I was glad to see the company at that time, though, and it's one of the few pieces of film of Kronstam dancing. (It's just a shame it's not his great roles.) Some dancers whom I knew when they were grown -- Lis Jeppesen, Miichael Bastian (now deceased, and a great comic mime) are childen in class.

#4 grace

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 09:01 PM

thanks. :)

"Mette's mentor is Kirsten, who cares so much for the good of the company that she practically begs the direction to give Mette a chance at her greatest role -- Swanhilda."

NOW i get it!

the relationship seemed odd - not your standard ballet film stuff. when mette is injured, simone says "OK *I* will dance the role" (NOT a quote)...and starts to prepare her hair and so on...yet she keeps encouraging the injured girl to recover and "DO IT" (which she does, of course), for her beamingly staisfied parents in the audience (i DID see the end - only the end).

so: i saw mette honningen dancing with kronstam..... the coppelia bits. simone is the "more established ballerina"/mentor, who i only saw in fur-coat sort of attire. the program credits were mis-spelled anyway. they listed only kronstam and simone, so i thought they were the principal dancers featured (in the story), dancing coppelia leads. both women are so beautiful, they glow.

i DID like the film - it was quite refreshing to see a ballet film totally 'new' to me eyes, and so 'sweet'.

is that a real theatre and curtain? i take it you are suggesting that is in finland, if it is real?

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 09:19 PM

I'm afraid I don't know -- Kronstam didn't talk much about it, just said "Hollywood and Finland." (It was one of the things we were to talk about later.) I imagine it was a real theater and curtain not a set. I forget why they couldn't shoot in Copenhagen.

Honningen grew up to be a ballerina (Simone was already established) and was one of those unusual dancers who was equally good in classical and modern roles -- Alvin Ailey created a big solo for her. The company brought two ballets for her to New York on their 1982 tour, and she was injured and couldn't dance, and so she's practically unknown outside of Denmark, which is a pity. She was also developing into a very interesting mime -- Giselle's mother, Muri in "A Folk Tale" -- but she was one of the 25 or so dancers let go in 1992 when the company got rid of most of their mimes.

#6 grace

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 09:27 PM

strangely, i think the main character (in the bit of the movie that i saw) was called mette - certainly ONE of the women was called mette, as i remember thinking how all the danish (first) names were names i knew of. maybe kirsten was even called kirsten? anyone recall. if you don't, don't worry - i'll be able to see for myself, in a couple of weeks, when they re-run it.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 09:30 PM

Yes, they all have their own real first names, but fake last names. So the characters are Mette (young ballerina), Kirsten (30-year-old ballerina -- I can't say old; she's in her prime!), and Henning -- and see how subtly they show that the male dancer has more power than the ballerina in that theater.

#8 Mary J

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 02:17 PM

When Disney first broadcast the movie Ballerina in the United States, I was in college, and had in recent memory seen the Royal Danish Ballet perform at Lincoln Center. It was very frustrating for those of us who had seen Mette, Kirsten and Henning perform in real life and in genuine ballets (Romeo and Juliet, Moon Reindeer, Carmen, The Lesson, Fanfare, La Sylphide - wow, I had forgotten!) to see Disney serve up a pastiche of unremarkable excerpts. Given the fact that the dancers were in or approaching their prime, it would have been a thrill to see them as they actually danced. Mette and Kronstam had danced a truly remarkable Moon Reindeer, but I guess that it just too stark (and sexy) for Uncle Walt. But why not Kirsten and Kronstam in Romeo?

But the ballet setting was surprisingly superficial (I haven't seen it since then, so forgive me if I am not remembering it all that clearly)- it could have been almost any performance setting, in effect. I would have preferred more Copenhagen and less Hollywood. And as an enlightened college student, even in the 1960's, the message of domesticity as "real life" didn't go over very well. You should have heard the howls of derision from my fellow students at some of the dialogue.

I don't actually remember Kristen so much because I thought Kronstam was the more natural of the performers. His role seemed a little unsympathetic because he was such a "tough" task-master but he was very photogenic and his voice was appealing. It was interesting to learn from Alexandra's book that Kronstam's voice was not dubbed. I am sure his English was good enough, and he had thought about being an actor, so it probably showed.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 02:25 PM

It most certainly did show! By that time, Kronstam was one of my TV heroes, from terrific performances, all pas de deux, unfortunately, that I saw on "Bell Telephone Hour", or "The Voice of Firestone." So take that, Marshall Dillon! Also, Kirsten Simone was just my idea of what a beautiful woman should look like, same source. And Mette Honningen danced one scorching "Carmen" that I was fortunate enough to catch. It would have had to be a much, much worse movie than it was (as it is, it's nearly a camp classic!) for me not to have enjoyed seeing them!

#10 grace

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 12:40 AM

"a camp classic" ?

great!- it SHOULD be. what i saw is lovely.

:)

mary j - your info is wonderful - thank you.

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 04:26 AM

Grace, I didn't mean "camp" as in "summer camp". I meant "camp" in the Susan Sontag sense. In other words, something so bad it's good. The dialogue sounds like it was written by someone who'd heard of screenplay, but had never written one. It kind of crosses up the concepts of "camp" with the wretched lines (low camp) and the subject matter, ballet (high camp). Ballet is such high camp that it's collected its own aesthetics and serious writers, and is now high art, in addition to high camp.

#12 Mary J

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 07:30 AM

Grace - thanks for your thanks! I apparently discovered ballet in one of its golden periods - the 1960's - and since I spent those years either in New York or London, I couldn't have been more fortunate. Royal Ballet (Nureyev, Fonteyn, Park, Sibley, Dowell, Bergsma, Parkinson); Bolshoi (Plisetskaya, Maximova, Vasiliev, Bessmertnova), ABT (Bruhn, Fracci, Gregory, Fernandez, Serrano, Marks, Lander, Sutherland, D'Antuono - now there is someone sadly overlooked!), NYCB (Farrell, Villela, D'Amboise, Hayden, Neary), Joffrey (Zomosa, Blankshine, Uthoff, Clear, Bradley), Royal Danish (Kronstam, Simone, Ostergaard, Kehlet, Honnigen). Gosh!!!

#13 grace

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Posted 12 December 2002 - 09:05 PM

it's OK mel. i know what 'camp' means in this context. ( 'camp' is NOT 'USA-speak'! ;) )

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 December 2002 - 09:19 PM

There are movies which I consider "participation" candidates, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Take a TV and a VCR and cover them with transparent plastic, play the movie, and throw things at the screen when something particularly stupid is done or said. Yell back at the dialogue, stuff like that. Al Pacino's "Revolution" is one of my favorites for that. "Ballerina" could make that designation, too, if only on the dialogue.

#15 grace

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Posted 12 December 2002 - 09:56 PM

although, the connection to susan sontag, who i know of only as an author, DOES need explanation - please? :confused:


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